So, while I'm no constitutional scholar, I've done more than a little bit of digging and poking and prodding around that document and specifically the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, also known as the "Bill of Rights". We quote them a lot and both sides of the political spectrum try to use them to their benefit. A recent thread got me thinking about what people really know about them and what they represent. I plan on 10 more topics, one for each independent amendment, but prior to that I wanted to start a discussion on the group as a whole. I encounter people all the time who, in my opinion, have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bill of Rights. And while we can argue about the state of the country (or corporation if you prefer), that doesn't change the nature of those 10 amendments and what they represent, why they exist, and what they "do". I've heard it asked (and done this myself), "what does the Bill of Rights grant us"? Whenever I ask that question I admit, I'm deliberately leading someone who has a fundamental misunderstanding of their purpose. Many times the answer starts with "It grants us the ability to..." at which point I try to stop them. Maybe it's a dick move, maybe not, but I try to stop them before they go any further because they are wrong after just a few words. The Bill of Rights doesn't bestow any rights. It doesn't grant us anything. It doesn't allow us to do anything. The Bill of Rights is not permission to say, carry, hold or do anything. The Bill of Rights has one purpose and one purpose only and we need to both remember that ourselves and ensure that everyone else learns and knows it as well. If the Government is a dog, the Bill of Rights is the leash. If the Government is a criminal, the Bill of Rights is the stockade. If the Government is crazy, the Bill of Rights is the straight jacket. The Bill of Rights is a legally binding reminder and restriction on the Federal Government from passing any law that would infringe on God/Creator given, inalienable rights. The Rights were not given or granted to us by Government, but by virtue of our being alive. Please keep the anti-religious rhetoric to yourself because it's a distraction and brings nothing to this particular conversation. The Bill of Rights protects the citizenry, from a legal standpoint, from having these "default" rights infringed upon by the Federal Government and in many cases, the States as well. I know some will say "I already know that", and we may from an intellectual standpoint, but do we really get what that means? When we say "my first amendment right" and we are talking about ANYTHING but a law being passed preventing us from saying x, y or z. When we say "my second amendment right" but we exclude felons? When we say "Bill of Rights" but only include "US Citizens"? The Bill of Rights are an outline of those rights originally mentioned in the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (emphasis mine) Without getting pedantic on "men" male vs "men" mankind, the above doesn't say, or even imply that those rights are only in effect if you are a member of this budding representative republic. All men, endowed with unalienable rights. Yes, that includes illegals and visitors and anyone else...anywhere else. If we cite this document, as amended, as the standard, we need to do so across the board. We have people from other countries who tell us we need to get over our gun or religious fetish, but when was the last time we as a country tried to push rescinding a law in England or Australia or Russia that prohibits their citizens from owning and carrying certain firearms? When was the last time we tried to get China to rescind the laws making it illegal to speak out against the government? They don't just apply to us, they apply to all mankind. And that's part of the point of this post. We talk about it when it suits our purpose but the left and right are equally guilty of selective inclusion and memory. The other part is to get you to really think about what those amendments mean individually and as a whole, because people, it's all or nothing. It can't only be when it suits us because as soon as we take that stance, we're no better than the Government that is trying to infringe upon them "because it suits them". Even if you are a slow reader, take three minutes and read the full, unedited text of the 10 Amendments known as the Bill of Rights. They aren't long or arduous, they are simple and straight forward. A couple of them have an archaic word here or there or discuss something you may not fully understand (my kids didn't know what "quartered" meant at one point), but you should be able to understand them via context. And then reflect on whether or not you feel one or more is being infringed, and if so, what does that mean to you and what are you going to do about it. The Bill of Rights – Full Text Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Amendment II A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. Amendment III No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law. Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. Amendment VI In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. Amendment VII In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.